And now it’s time for beaver county memories presented by St. Barnabas Beaver Meadows. In today’s segment, Let’s take a “drive down” memory lane. Or, in this case, a “drive In” to memory lane, as this Beaver County Memory is about the drive in theaters that were once common.
In 1948, three drive ins opened up in Beaver County. With The addition of the ABC drive in in the southern part of Beaver County, the debut of the HI Way 51 Drive in in Chippewa Township and Spotlight 88 in North Sewickley Township, local movie viewing capacity increased dramatically. Ironically, both the ABC and Hi Way 51 drive ins also closed the same year, following the 1982 season. The ABC drive In was one of the larger drive theaters in the area, featuring two screens and boasting a parking capacity around seven hundred cars. The acronym name signified the three communities close to the complex, including Ambridge, Baden and Conway. A housing complex now sits on the site of the old ABC drive in, which was located off of state street near the Northern Lights Shopping Center.
Another drive in that made its debut at that time was known initially as the Hi Way 51 Drive In and it was located on Darlington Road in Chippewa Township. The Drive in became known as the Super 51 sometime in 1969. According to online records it had one screen and parked about five hundred cars. A local Chippewa grandmother commented recently that it was a fun evening to pack the kids up, dress them in their P.J.’s and head off to the Super 51 Drive in, which typically played family movies first, and then popular current release movies later on in the evening. The Super 51 also had a small playground and swing set to help keep the little ones happy.
There must have been something in the water in Beaver County in 1948, because a third popular drive In Theatre, the Spotlight 88, opened in North Sewickley Township. Spotlight 88 is probably one of the most talked about drive ins due to the nature of its demise when it was destroyed by a tornado in 1985. The Spotlight 88 drive in reportedly had space for a little over six hundred cars and had two screens. Often times running kids cartoon movies on the main screen and adult x rated movies on the smaller screens located farther back in the viewing area. Depending on where one parked, both screens could be visible and thus the parking space that a person chose, determined how much they would see. Figuratively and literally. Spotlight 88 had a train ride for the kids and was still a very popular and viable destination when it was destroyed over thirty years ago. Nowadays, a flea market occupies the field where the bright lights of projectors and the colors of giant screen images from Spotlight 88 once dazzled the night time skies along routes 588 and 65.
In 1950, a five hundred car open air theater known as the Tusca Drive in Opened on Tuscarawas Road in Brighton Township. The Tusca Drive in had a relatively successful run and was one of the latter surviving drive Ins still operating in Beaver County when it closed in 1991. While many memories were formed back when at the Tusca Drive In, memories are being preserved on that same site today as it is now home to St. Barnabas Beaver Meadows, an assisted living care facility that features memory care treatment and support, among other services for its residents. Early newspaper ads for the Tusca Drive In boast about showing movies in “Techni Color” and urged patrons to “come as they are” and take advantage of in car speakers to watch the movies.
The last drive in to remain open in Beaver County was the Kane Road drive in in Hopewell Township. Which opened in 1954, and continued entertaining people looking through the windshield of a car until twenty thirteen. The one screen Drive In theatre held about five hundred cars. It reportedly was still doing well at the time of closing, but the high cost of changing over to digital movie platforms forced the Kane Road projector bulbs to go dark only a few years ago.
Beaver County Memories have been presented by St. Barnabas Beaver Meadows. Tune in everyday at this time for another Beaver County Memory. You can also visit beaver county radio dot com for a complete transcript of this segment, and archived versions of previous Beaver County memories aired right here on Beaver County Radio, 1230 WBVP and 1460 WMBA.